Saturday, September 29, 2012

HUNGRYINTAIPEI RESTAURANT ROUNDUP- SUMMER/SEPTEMBER 2012

HUNGRYINTAIPEI SUMMER/SEPTEMBER 2012 RESTAURANT ROUND UP

I can eat faster than I can blog, so here's a little catch up on the restaurant news around Taipei.

OPENED

-Opened just in the past month+, BARRITO and JUANITA are the two newest ventures into the Taipei burrito wars. Barrito is a countertop for take away orders only, at ATT 4 Fun, and open late for club hoppers, while Juanita takes a page from Chipotle and offers barbacoa beef and fresh guacamole (for those of you missing the now defunct OOLA).

-A very new place with crazy word of mouth, DRESSED serves up salads, sandwiches and smoothies and plenty of greens (and arugula!) for those tired of iceberg lettuce with shreds of carrot atop as salad.

-Quite possibly my favorite cupcakes in town now, LES BEBES CUPCAKERY is adorable from its shop to its packaging to its mini cupcakes. The peanut butter chocolate cupcake is crazy good.

-Cupcake fans can also find cupcakes at TRINE AND ZEN by SUPERBAKED with classic Flavors as well as special flavors like red velvet and cassis. My favorite is the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

-If you can keep track, the mango ice shop at the address 15 Yong Kang St. is now owned and run by SMOOTHIE HOUSE, not to be confused with shut down YONG KANG 15 or ICE MONSTER. Or maybe the tourists are supposed to be confused.

-The pastrami sandwiches from 1 BITE 2 GO look promising- one day I'll make it out to Shihlin to try them.

-NCIS SUSHI moved its digs to the popular Zhongxiao/Dunhua area and closed its Shida location.

-LONGTABLE is a little off the radar with its Xinyi location in the same office building as DN Innovacion, but offers a brunch and Western menu in a spacious dining space perfect for large groups.

-MASALA HOUSE reopened in a new location in July.

-Did you even know there was cajun style seafood (ala The Boiling Crab) in Taipei? The places I knew about- BOILING SEAFOOD and SPICY ALLEY- are now both closed.

-Mostly cafe, with a side of vintage shop, LOVE LOVELY is certainly lovely to linger in and has some bright spots on the menu like mojito smoothies, truffle fries, apple dutch baby and grilled short rib steaks.

-YOPPI FROYO at  A4 Foodcourt, taking over HAAGEN DAAZ's spot. Froyo TUTTI FRUTTI also replaced HIELO at A8 Foodcourt.

-DAN RYAN's opened at Xinyi Mistukoshi A9 and closed its longtime Dunhua location

-TARTINE BAKERY opened up a satellite location at A8 foodcourt in September

-New udon shop FU YU WU SANUKI UDON near LAO YO JI and Dunhua Sogo

-A couple of other newly opened restaurants on the radar include PIG AND PEPPER and CUT & BITE NO. 6

CLOSED

-I heard CALIFORNIA GRILL closed its remaining location on Yong Kang St. Kind of sad to hear, too many burger places now to compete with probably.

-Shida lost RABBIT RABBIT and 1885 BURGER over the summer (while Macho Tacos still holding on despite the neighboring  negativity complete with huge signs plastering all over residential buildings). But don't worry, 1885 Burger reopened on Civic Blvd with shiny new digs.

-PAPA POULET closed its Tianmu location expecting to move to another location, but ended up in limbo and no shop. Another one I kept wanting to try, heard the rotisserie chicken was delish.

-SKINNY TAJ PIZZA in A8 Shin Kong Mitsukoshi is gone, as well as INDIAN PALACE at A4 Mitsukoshi. But in the same place at A4's food court is CAFE INDIA. Total revamp of owners and chefs or just a name change?

-I-BAKED closed its remaining Guangfu branch, but cookies can still be ordered online.

-Budget tonkatsu restaurant KITARO closed their DaAn Road branch.

What did I miss? Please add new restaurants or restaurant news in the comments!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

snapshot/taiwanese: i still strongly recommend TAI YI MILK KING



It's not summer in Taipei unless you're eating shaved ice. Okay, so it's not really summer anymore- since it's nearing October, the weather has been shifting to a nice cooler temperature and Christmas decorations have hit Costco already- but a bowl of shaved ice lets us pretend just a little longer.

Whatever you top your shaved ice with- mangos, pudding, peanuts or corn- make sure there's plenty of condensed milk blanketing the ice.

My favorite at Tai Yi Milk King is still the freshly made chewy xiao tang yuan, and pairing it strawberries is an off the menu combo. For more details, check out the first review I wrote up in June 2007.

I'm slowly catching up on posts, and Instagram helps capture a lot of moments and insta-thoughts that I often am slow to blog about. I lost my phone a few weeks ago which SUCKS and lost a few weeks of photos, but the lesson of the story is to remember to BACK UP your data (iphone, computer, ipad).

TAI YI MILK KING 臺一牛奶大王
No. 82, XinSheng S. Road, Section 3
台北市大安區新生南路三段82號
(across the street from the main entrance of National Taiwan University aka Taida)
(02) 2362-3712

MRT: Gongguan

hours: 10:30 AM - midnight daily

devoured on: 9/16/2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

chinese/taiwanese: i strongly recommend GOLDEN FORMOSA



GOLDEN FORMOSA 金蓬萊 
No. 101, Tianmu East Road, Shihlin District,  
台北市士林區天母東路101號

(02) 2871-1517

MRT: Zhishan


hours: 11:30AM- 2PM; 5:30PM- 9PM

$$

Kid friendliness: high chairs available

Visit reviewed: 12/21/2011





Shihlin is home to Golden Formosa, a two story Taiwanese restaurant that serves a wide menu of homestyle dishes, with a space and taste different than the more well known, upscale Taiwanese family restaurant Shin Yeh. I've been to several Taiwanese restaurants that my local relatives chose for dinner when US relatives are visiting and Golden Formosa stands out as one of the better experiences. 


The English, Chinese and Japanese menu is quite tourist friendly, except there aren't many pictures for reference. Some dishes come in smaller vs larger sizes and the menu is huge. The specialty dishes are located convienently on one page, and then there's sir-fried dishes (heehee), traditional dishes, vegetables, seafood and more. The front of the menu even has a story about how the family owned restaurant has been passed down the generations since the 1950s.


Plate after plate came to the table until the lazy susan was full. My relatives patiently turned each dish to me first to let me have a pristine picture before digging in. Everything that I tried was tasty. Mouthful after mouthful, bowl after bowl, the tastes all blend together while catching up with family, so I'll have to let the pictures do most of the talking.

Cold steamed chicken 



Crispy fried spare ribs (NT$150/each) were popular at the table and we had to place a second of order for this and the fried cuttlefish balls.





Salt cured mullet roe with radishes


I really enjoyed the Narrow-barred Spanish Mackarel with Rice Noodles, the soup had a depth that kept me slurping. A must order.




Pork kidneys with marbled pork in sesame oil (NT$650)



Curry crab
If you're adventurous, you can try the chicken testicles with steamed egg. I personally wasn't THAT adventurous, so I kept to the bottom layer, with the creamy steamed egg.


Yeah, not the most popular dish at the table. You have to have some balls to eat this dish. LOL!


Can't have a Chinese dinner without whole steamed fish topped with scallions and bathed in soy sauce.


Can you tell the relatives can eat?! After all that food, a huge claypot of chicken soup still came to the table with a whole chicken inside. OMG, who saved room?




Even the Deep-fried Taro Root was delish, with a chewy, mochi-like center and a crispy shell, and I usually don't like taro.




Reservations recommended and bring a large group so you can try more dishes.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

new in town/salads/sandwiches: i strongly recommend DRESSED




DRESSED 
No. 169 Anhe Rd, Sec. 2 台北市安和路二段169號
(02) 2733-9393 

MRT: Zhongxiao/Dunhua


hours: 11 AM - 9 PM

$$ (about NT$220-400/person)

Kid friendliness: no high chairs spotted, some room for strollers. can order custom sandwiches like ham and cheese

Visit reviewed: 8/27/2012, 8/29/2012 and 9/17/2012


Taipei has been craving salads and sandwiches, proven by the busy lunchtime crowds at Dressed since opening only a few weeks ago. Okay, I have also been craving a great salads and sandwiches place, and missing my LA spots like Tender Greens or Souplantation. For years, I have been wistfully wanting heaping plates of fresh arugula or baby spinach, topped with soft cheeses and slices of juicy grilled meats and things like sweet sundried tomatoes, chunky avocados and sunshine colored beets that I'd often eat in LA. 


Originally an American fast casual chain from Atlanta, Georgia, Dressed found its way to Hong Kong and now to a visible spot on Anhe Road near Carnegies. The sandwich/salad cafe concept is common in the US, but hasn't really blown up here yet, unless you count Subway (or perhaps Toasteria.)

I've never seen such strong word of mouth for a new restaurant, with at least 5 readers emailing me and twittering me, asking me to try it within a week of it opening. I just got another email yesterday from a reader telling me how much he loved Dressed, (as well as disliked another place, Bacco Tapas?)


The cafe is clean with lots of bright primary colors- green, orange, red, echoed in the everything from the decor and uniforms to the logo and lines on the plates. Restaurant color psychology and marketing dollars in action?


For first timers, the menu can be overwhelming. Even though the menu only has sandwiches, paninis and salads, there's a lot to choose from.


There's 18 choices for "Chef designed" salads (NT$260-350), as well as the option to create your own salad with iceberg, mixed greens, romaine, baby spinach or arugula as a base, then choose 4 from almost 50 topping choices like beets, salami, goat cheese or even dried cranberries and then a dressing. Premium greens and toppers come with an additional cost to the base price of NT$230 and salads can be made as custom wraps as well. 


There's also hot panini sandwiches and about 10 cold Artisan sandwiches to browse. The prices are not cheap, but they are still cheaper than quite a few sit down Western cafes and restaurants. Decisions, decisions. 


My first time to Dressed, I ended up ordering a Cobb Salad and a Steak Panini to share with a friend. I ordered on one side of the counter and then walked to the end of the counter to pay, carrying my order sheet.



You can see the salads being made and chopped up into bite sized pieces with efficiency, and a lot of people behind the counter busy measuring, assembling, chopping, grilling, and blending. 


I suppose if you had a hard time deciding off the menu, you could also order by pointing at items at the counter since everything is in sight. They might also give you a more hearty portion if you are standing there, as I spotted on my last visit from a neighboring customer.



Near the cashier, there are premade paninis for toasting and fresh juices, canned sodas and chips are available, while smoothies are made to order.



Once you pay, you get a number to take to your table (if you can find one). If you have a more complicated order, like a custom made salad, you should check your order sheet to make sure that it's the right order since I've had a couple orders gone awry. For example, if I had looked closely at my order sheet, I would have caught that they made my Cobb salad into a wrap which I didn't ask for, but there was probably some confusion since I was going to make a custom wrap and then changed my mind and got a Cobb instead.



First to arrive was my Peach smoothie (NT$150), which was a smooth consistency and the right amount of sweetness. If you've been missing Jamba Juice, you'll love Dressed's smoothies. When I ordered a second smoothie, I noticed on the menu that some of the smoothies include simple syrup, which is basically sugar water, so that they don't rely on the natural sweetness of the fruit or add something like apple juice. So if that bothers you, you can request to leave it out but then the smoothie will not be as sweet. They also puree many of the fruits and ingredients beforehand, so that they are measuring everything from squirt bottles, which is kind of a strange sight, but I suppose makes sense for speed.


Then my Steak panini (NT$260) came, bursting with arugula. I loved the flavor combination, with the zesty arugula, creamy pungent goat cheese, spicy chipotle dressing and tender steak. The ciabatta bread was really good, with a soft crunchiness from being toasted and not too dense and heavy. I just wished there was a tad more steak, but I inhaled my half of the sandwich.


Oh arugula, how I've missed you so. 


I was surprised to see my Cobb salad as a wrap, but it was still chock full of avocado and tomatoes and speckles of hard boiled egg. One thing I think Dressed could do is not wrap the wraps in so much aluminum foil (there must have been at least 4 layers), but I know it helps keep the shape of the wrap. Maybe just two layers since there's also a plastic wrap layer outside?


The wrap was a fairly decent size and fat, and while there wasn't a ton of chicken in the salad wrap, the mix of ingredients was enough to keep me distracted. And it was actually quite creamy from the avocado despite me having asked for the dressing on the side (thinking I was getting a salad).


On my second visit, I was excited to share the new spot and brought along a few girlfriends. We managed to grab a big table in the back and started to order. I know that Dressed is very new, so they are still working out the kinks- we had a couple of wrong orders and missed orders as well- so again, check your order sheet.

One of my friend stuck with the classic Caesar salad (NT$230).


I ended up wanting to try a Custom salad (NT$220 base price). I ended up choosing arugula (+NT$15) with beets, steak (+NT$50 ), red pepper and sundried tomatoes (+NT$ ).


The green salad portion is quite large, enough to share between 2-3 people as a side, or split into two meals, but I was disappointed in the toppings. Especially since I had to pay extra, like for the steak, I expected to be able to see it, even if it was mixed together and not laid atop. I'd rather get a panini for a flat price and not pay more for less protein.


It was hard to find more than a few morsels of each topping and the tiny pieces of steak were cold. It made me miss my favorite salad place in LA, Tender Greens, even more since their salads came with huge slices of hot medium rare grilled steak or big chunks of chicken and avocado in their Cobb (and at a similiar price point). I had my expectations raised by my previous positive experience and in terms of customizing my own salad, I wanted more from Dressed. I couldn't eat it the way that it was, so I asked for a box and boxed it to-go so I could take it home and add more stuff to it for dinner.


On my third visit, I mentioned my disappointment to the guy at the counter, and he responded in perfect English, "let us make it up to you" and offered to make a better salad, noting that they had only been opened a few weeks. It was the thought that counted, the desire to make the customer happy instead of a weak "bu hao yi si" that ensures that Dressed will thrive and hopefully improve and help good salads become a staple in Taipei diet. I didn't take his offer that day, but hopefully they can tweak the toppings portions so that it will be as hearty as the chef designed salads even without complaints from previous visits.

And my to-go Salami panini (NT$280) with peppery arugula, briny artichokes, salty parmesan cheese and sweet roasted red peppers from my third visit was delicious. 


The to-go box fit the sandwich perfectly and was cut into triangles for easy eating on the go.


Who knew you could put artichokes in a sandwich? I'm totally stealing that idea.


I know word of mouth for Dressed will be crazy. With the opening of the also new 1Bite2Go, maybe sandwiches and salads will be the next craze to hit Taipei?


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